The issues that need addressing depend on the individual. Properties, insurance, investments, beneficiaries... it’s all highly personalized. However, absolutely everyone needs to take care of the basics first, even if the estate is a simple one.
Immediately following the death, a doctor or coroner will provide a Medical Certificate of Death and send it to the funeral director. The family or the funeral director can then complete a Statement of Death form. Both documents are needed by the government in order to issue you the Death Certificate.
The Death Certificate(s) is essential to a number of matters, so be sure to order extras. Applications can be made online, by fax or mail, or in person. Be advised, it can take weeks for the Death Certificates to arrive, but you can continue in the meantime. For certain tasks it may be acceptable to present a copy of the Statement of Death, or a Proof of Death Certificate created by the funeral director or an ordained religious leader.
The funeral home will procure the legal permits for cremation or burial, complete the final services, and can help write and submit the obituary. In some cases, the loved one may have had the foresight to make their own final plans before they passed away. The funeral home will have those wishes documented, freeing the family from added responsibilities.
In the weeks that follow, the administrator or executor, and the family will be faced with many details, each requiring its own specific forms and certificates. These can include: cancelling government benefits, closing bank or utility accounts, making insurance claims, notifying associations and more. Hopefully, the deceased has left a legal Will and has chosen an executor. If not, an administrator must be appointed by the courts. A lawyer will help guide you through this process, called “probate”.
An accountant is also useful to determine the value of the estate’s assets and debts, and to create the two final income tax returns required by the government. When all the financial business of the estate is complete, the accountant will issue a “Clearance Certificate”.
When considering your own final affairs, you can help loved ones by collecting contact information for employers, creditors and investment agencies, etc., as well as noting the whereabouts of your Will, Deeds and Ownerships. Recording this information in one place will simplify life for your family as they navigate through the often confusing paperwork required for closing an estate.